Researchers at the University of Stirling explored the true impact of steering a soccer ball, identifying small but significant changes in brain function immediately following routine steering practice.
The Scottish University for Sports Excellence study published in EBioMedicine is the first to detect direct changes in the brain after players are exposed to daily impacts to the head, as opposed to clinical brain injuries like concussion.
A group of soccer players directed a ball 20 times, shot from a machine designed to simulate the pace and power of a corner kick. Before and after the cap sessions, the scientists tested the players’ brain function and memory.
Increased inhibition in the brain was detected after a single session of heading. Memory test performance was also reduced by 41-67%, with effects normalizing within 24 hours.
It remains to be seen whether the changes in the brain remain temporary after repeated exposure to a soccer ball and the long-term consequences of the position on brain health.
Played by more than 250 million people around the world, the “beautiful game” often involves intentional and repeated bursts of the head of a ball. In recent years, the possible link between brain damage in sports and the increased risk of dementia has drawn attention to the question of whether the direction of a soccer ball could have long-term consequences on the health of the player. brain.
Cognitive neuroscientist, Dr Magdalena Ietswaart of psychology at the University of Stirling, said: “In light of growing concerns about the effects of contact sports on brain health, we wanted to see if our brain responds instantly to the direction of the brain. ‘a soccer ball. which both amateur and pro teams are familiar with, we found that there was actually increased inhibition in the brain immediately after the cap, and performance on memory tests was drastically reduced.
“Although the changes were temporary, we believe they are important for brain health, especially if they recur indefinitely like soccer balls do. With a large number of people in the world who participate in this sport, it is important that they are aware of what is going on inside the brain and the lasting effect it can have. “
Dr. Angus Hunter, Lecturer in Exercise Physiology in the Faculty of Health and Athletic Sciences, added, “For the first time, athletic organizations and members of the public can see clear evidence of the risks associated with exercise. repetitive impacts caused by the direction of a soccer ball.
“We hope that these findings will open up new approaches to detect, monitor and prevent cumulative brain damage in sport. We must protect the long-term health of football players at all levels, as well as individuals involved in others. contact sports. “
Dr Ietswaart and Dr Hunter were supported in research by Stirling neuropsychologist Professor Lindsay Wilson and PhD student Tom Di Virgilio, in consultation with Glasgow University Medical School neuropathologist Dr Willie Stewart and a multidisciplinary team wider.
In the study, scientists measured levels of brain function using a basic neuroscientific technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). The results of this study, funded by the NIHR Brain Injury Healthcare Technology Cooperative (HTC), are the first to show that the TMS technique can be used to detect changes in brain function after small, routine impacts.
Source of the story:
Material provided by Stirling University. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.